Monday, 7 January 2013

A SOIRÉE OF CLASSICAL MUSIC / Boris Kraljevic & Friends / Review

Boris Kraljevic and Friends
The Living Room @ The Arts House
Friday (4 January 2013)

This review was published in The Straits Times on 7 January 2013 with the title "Friends' soirée sizzled and stewed".

While The Arts House at Old Parliament House has established itself as a centre for literary arts, it is also an ideal venue for the performance of art songs and chamber music. Its quaint and intimate spaces lend themselves well, where artists and small audiences literally share the same breath. Such was the setting in The Living Room where Montenegro-born pianist Boris Kraljevic, now resident in Singapore, and his musical colleagues held sway.

All ears were on the Prima Vista String Quartet from Poland which began with the slow movement of Schubert’s “Death and the Maiden” Quartet, a set of variations on the chord-filled opening of his Lied of the same title. Its four members were in one voice throughout, with first violinist Krzysztof Bzowka and cellist Zbigniew Krzyminski alternately providing the melodic interest.

The quartet also provided premium support for the Briton Neil Franks, a mature student of Kraljevic, in J.S.Bach’s Piano Concerto in F minor (BWV.1056). That the keyboard was able to transcend the accompaniment and project spoke volumes for the non-professional soloist, while metronomic in parts was anything but amateurish.

Next, Serbian violinist Vuk Krakovic, another resident here, poured his heart out in Nigun (Improvisation) from Ernest Bloch’s Baal Shem Suite, a rapturous evocation of Hassidic prayer life. His rich, robust tone and perfect intonation, accompanied by Kraljevic on piano, made this a hale and hearty outing.

The ever-sensitive Kraljevic then partnered celebrated soprano Nancy Yuen in songs by Mozart and Schubert. Here the evening took on the congenial atmosphere of a Schubertiade, those soirees of legend when the Austrian composer and his friends performed and sang to each other’s delight. She dedicated the lovely Du bist die Ruh (You Are The Peace) to the memory of the late tenor Lim Shieh Yih (left), moments of sober reflection before the joyous Alleluia from Mozart’s Exsultate Jubilate celebrated a glorious life.

The second half belonged wholly to Kraljevic and the quartet in Dvorak’s Piano Quintet in A major (Op.81). The piano established the rocking rhythm, to which Krzyminski’s cello sang a lament that laid the path for an exciting and totally riveting reading. Heavily influenced by Bohemian folk song and dance, the work alternated melancholy with vigorous merry-making, and a plethora of emotions besides.

Violist Piotr Nowicki’s plaint in the Dumka slow movement was emblematic of the passion that swung between extremes with Kraljevic’s magisterial pianism keeping pace throughout. The tempo picked up for the boisterous dances in the final movements, concluding a performance that sizzled and stewed in Slavonic sauces. The Furiant movement was encored out of popular demand. Chamber music does not get better than this.   

Applause for all the performers (from L): Violinist Krzysztof  Bzowka, violinist Joszef Kolinek, pianist  Boris Kraljevic, cellist Zbigniew Krzyminski, violist Piotr Nowicki, soprano Nancy Yuen, pianist Neil Franks and violinist Vuk Krakovic.

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